My aunt in Budapest sends me two color photographs, one of my father’s grave, heaped with flowers. The second of a ribbon around one of those bouquets imprinted with my mother’s name, my name, my two sisters’ names and some strange unrecognizable name at the end.
In the photo you can’t see my father’s gravestone, which was what I looked for. Instead you can only see the gravestone next to his with the names of my grandparents. A big stone cross stands between the two stones, a grave with some status, planning and pretensions.
My father buried next to his parents as if he didn’t get far.
My mother on the phone last night saying finally, “I’ll let you go,” and me feeling almost hurt though I was aching to get off the phone, wondering why I can hardly tolerate two minutes with mymother one the phone though I always want to hear her voice and know she is there, I never want to tell he anything, never want to then hear her response which always feels off the mark, and always she keeps me on the phone longer than I want to be be except last night she actually said, “I’ll let you go,” as if she too did not want to be on the call, and we hadn’t mentioned my father, I didn’t mention the photos that had arrived just hours before, and maybe I thought as I hung up, maybe that’s what’s different that we – I – don’t want to talk about it, want that his death means nothing, in a way it’s easy to go that route – he’s been so gone for so long – out of the country for 25 years, in some kind of senility for a year, and even when he was in this country and functioning, always not someone we wanted around – me, my sisters or my mother.
But now he’s really gone and I think as I walk to my car how I will never ever see him again.
But I don’t want to talk about it with my mother.
A gravesite has nothing to do with the person. In a way, I wish my aunt had not sent the pictures. I didn’t want to see something so gruesome. But it’s real and I claim to always prefer the real.
My sister’s name on the ribbon was the name she rejected about 30 years ago and legally changed 20 years ago.
My aunt in the note she sends with the photos makes no mention of the card I sent after I heard of my father’s death.
I chose a card from the Omega bookstore. Its main image was of a strong red heart.
I didn’t know if the image would mean anything to my strict, bare bones aunt, but though I didn’t’ buy the card the first day I saw it, I chose it because the red heart said to me what I wanted it to convey to her – thank you, I appreciate the burden you carried – caring for my father for years -- though I didn’t offer to help you.
I put $20 in the card. I had never sent money before though I knew it was needed. This time I did though it was a low-cash period at home. I wanted to put in a $50 bill but just couldn’t do it, so folded up a twenty and wrapped it in tin foil – a haphazard attempt to foil the attempts of anyone who might be able to figure out the envelope held cash. I had no idea if tin foil could mask such things, but hoped it might, though it kept making me think I was sending cocaine through the mail.